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You have all the legal parental rights that any other legal parent has to their child until you sign the adoption paperwork, sometimes called “relinquishment paperwork.” If you’re legally married to the other parent, you both have the same parental rights. If you’re not legally married to the other parent, laws are different state by state. 

Learn more about the rights of unmarried parents

Remember that adoption laws vary from state to state, so if you’re considering a prospective adoptive family in a state different from your own, the laws in both states may need to be followed.

What are the rights of the non-birthing parent? 

The laws about paternity, also known as parentage or birth father rights, vary from state to state. Generally, the other parent will have the opportunity to assert their rights to the child. If they’re successful, they would then need to be involved in any decision making about adoption.  

Adoption professionals are required by law to attempt to get as much information as possible about the other parent and show that they tried to notify and include them in the adoption process.  

Many states have “putative father registries,” where unmarried fathers and non-birthing parents can legally claim paternity of the child. A “putative father” isn’t legally married to the pregnant person, hasn’t been named on the child’s birth certificate, hasn’t been named as a parent by the pregnant person, and hasn’t been named a parent by a court approved DNA test. 

In some states, if the identity and whereabouts of the putative parent are known, they’re given notice of the adoption and may have the option to consent or object. However, in most states with putative father registries, they aren’t entitled to notice unless they’ve registered with the state. In states that don’t have putative father registries, you can still try to legally claim putative father status. 

Most putative father registries have a short time span in which a putative parent may register, so it’s important to understand the laws in your state as soon as possible. 

Learn more about putative father registries and other expectant and birth father rights. For support with father’s rights in adoption, contact Sky Is the Limit Foundation.

What are adoption laws?

Adoption laws are different in every state. Here is an overview of important adoption laws:  

More information on your rights:

What is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)?

ICWA is a federal law that dictates who a Native American or Indigenous child can be placed with for adoption. ICWA requires children to be placed with a member of their own family or kinship network. If that is not possible, they must be placed with a member of the same tribe. If that is not possible, they must be placed with a member of another tribe. And if none of these options are available, the child can be placed with a non-Native person or family. ICWA is an important law that was designed to keep Native American families, communities, and nations together after the long history of forced removal of their children and placement into “boarding schools,” and, more recently, white adoptive homes and foster care, as a tool of assimilation and genocide. 

If you or the other parent of your child is Native American or Indigenous, the adoption professional you work with should be able to help you through this process. However, some pregnant people have experienced adoption professionals who try to work around the law as they do not believe in the rights of Indigenous people. Find more ICWA information and support here.


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